Emily Dickinson is considered one of America’s finest poets. Some call her the best. Born in Amherst Massachusetts in 1830 she died in 1885 of Bright’s (kidney) disease. Her education beyond the primary grades was limited to ten months at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. While attending primary school Emily insisted she be accompanied, for security, by her younger sister, Lavinia. She was only two!

Throughout her life Emily led a life of seclusion by her own choice. A protective father screened her reading material, but books for Emily were hidden in bushes and her sister Lavinia would go out and bring them to Emily without her father’s knowledge.

In her isolation Emily described places that she could only have read about. Many of her poems dealt with death, some with the agonies and truth in failure, her views on religion, and about relationships, and just random ideas. Her poetry was not considered in tune with her time and the freedom of punctuation and syntax she employed led to a mere ten or so of her poems being published before her death.

After her sister’s death Lavinia discovered fascicles (bundles) of her sister’s poems tied in sheafs. They eventually numbered 1,800. Through the efforts of Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd they were published to literary acclaim and substantial profit. Dickinson’s poems have remained in print continuously since 1890.

Emily Dickinson never married but she was in love with her sister-in-law who she remained close to all her life. Despite her self-imposed isolation Emily served as hostess for a large annual party held by her father when he was a congressman.

This list of 10 of “Dickinson’s poems demonstrates the stretch of her work There are 1,790 more that will give any reader pleasure.

1. “I taste a Liquor Never Brewed”*
2. “Success is counted Sweetest”
3. “Wild Nights – Wild Nights”
4. I Felt A funeral in my Brain”
5. “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?”
6. “Hope is the thing with feathers”
7. “A bird, came down the Walk”
8. “Because I could not stop for Death”
9. “My life had stood – a loaded Gun”
10 “Tell all the truth – but tell it Slant”

These poems can be seen at the link below.


*Dickinson’s poems were not named. They are numbered and identified by the first line.


By Margaret Hall Simpson


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